Science & Society

Science and Society and how they get along.

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Location: Santa Barbara, California, United States

I'm a physicist and science consultant specialized in optics, lasers and optical engineering. This blog, StarkFX, looks at what applications physics is finding today. Or, if you are looking at my StarkEffects blog, it displays my views about and interest in the interface between society and science.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Democratic Control Of Science Research.

In general, when you want someone to pay for your work, you must convince them that they will benefit from that work. If we expect taxpayers to foot the bill for scientific research and technology development, we may end up having to convince those taxpayers that they will benefit. The problem we run into here is one of preparing those taxpayers to make complex decisions about what to fund and what not to fund.

It is a sad reality that success in selling products or services has less to do with the value of those products and services than it does with the buyer's perception of value. Just look at the junk filling your email account. You'll find there a ton of hype for products or services that are mediocre at best and completely worthless quite often. Why do you see these ads? Because they work. Now imagine what research will get funded if we let the general population decide based on what they have been told. The only way good research will get funded is if good researchers start employing the psychology of advertising the same way politicians do. I'm afraid, we'd see less educating the public to give them a chance to make informed decisions than we'd see convincing free energy charlatans and quack cure sellers telling us about the big conspiracies trying to keep us in the dark and prevent us from ever seeing all the benefits of pseudo-scientific research.

How, as a whole society, will we ever get past our own ignorance?

Friday, May 05, 2006

Living the Scientific Life

I just met grrlscientist. Actually, unlike apparently everyone else in the world, I have no idea who this person is that writes the blog "Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)" but I fell in love with the blog. After claiming that I would never look at another report from World Science I changed my mind to read their story on the link between insanity and reason which I just had to read for reasons that are obvious to anyone that has actually met me. Anyway, while I was on the World Science site I noticed a link titled "Living the Scientific Life" and I followed it. I read several of the postings on this site and thouroughly enjoyed them. The writer is genuinely concerned about science and of course her particular field in environmental studies. If you get a chance, do read her blog, she writes very well.

Another blogger I found very interesting and motivating was The Concerned Scientist. Reading his call to action in the war on science was informative and stimulating. However, the focus was predominantly on the threat to science posed by the Intelligent Design crowd, while I happen to think that the problem is deeper than that and that ID appeals to the masses for the same reason that science does not. Humans en masse have always been inclined to latch onto the supernatural explanation while only a few are inclined to face reality and either become despised or respected depending on how they present themselves to others. The difference between the masses and the gurus is effort. Thinking takes energy and effort and if the reward is not immediate enough, we generally give it up, hence our TV culture.

Today's post is just to point out a couple of new "acquaintances" with whom I'm impressed.